Social care staff must get their first Covid jab by midnight tonight to meet the Government deadline of receiving two vaccines by 11 November – but unions fear workers may quit or be sacked instead.
Trade union Unison has warned it has been receiving reports recently that multiple care agencies are struggling to provide temporary care workers as emergency cover for care homes. The mandatory jabs policy was ‘partly to blame’ for these staff shortages, it said.
Unison general secretary Christina McAnea urged ministers to ‘admit the error of their ways’ on the policy. She added: ‘Instead of encouraging much-needed recruitment into care, the government is actively driving experienced staff away.’
Jane Brightman, chair of the Outstanding Manager Network, a group sharing good practice in the sector, also told Nursing in Practice that staff have been telling ‘struggling’ care home managers they are leaving because of the policy.
She said: ‘The shortage of nurses in the sector is already worrying. Remember, it just hasn’t stopped for social care. They are still in full PPE. They are still going into Covid outbreaks. And all of this in a recruitment crisis.’
If staff are not double-jabbed by 11 November, they will not be allowed to enter a CQC-registered care home, under the Government regulations. Exemptions to the rule include people visiting residents, medical reasons, emergency assistance or urgent maintenance, or children.
By the Department of Health and Social Care’s (DHSC) own estimates, around 40,000 or 7% of the 570,000 people employed in care homes in England will refuse the vaccine.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson told Nursing in Practice in June that if a care home staff member eligible for the vaccine does not comply with the new guidelines, ‘they may be asked to find alternative employment that does not involve working in a care home’.
In June, care home leaders gave warnings to Nursing in Practice the requirement could worsen existing recruitment and retention problems.
This comes after the Government launched a six-week consultation on making Covid-19 and flu jabs compulsory for patient-facing staff across all healthcare settings.